At some point, we realize that thoughts are…. thoughts. They contain no final or absolute truth. They are tools. They are here to help us orient and function in the world.
As we mature in that realization, we learn to function in the embrace of knowing that thoughts are thoughts while also using them as guides.
One way that works pretty well is to…..
Use consensus reality thoughts as general guide in everyday life, unless there are good reasons not to. This is especially helpful when we interact with people and in our work…!
Use maps that fit with our deeper experience of reality, perhaps similar to what is found in some spiritual traditions.
Use overarching maps of maps found in, for instance, integral models such as the AQAL model of Ken Wilber.
Use kindess as a guide. Use big picture views and long term perspectives as a guide.
Know that our experience, our choice of views, and the views themselves are inherently biased. They are the product of the whole history and evolution of the universe up to this point. They each have innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe.
Use the maps, views, and orientations with some fluidity, receptivity, and humility. Knowing that with more experience and maturity, we’ll find other ones that make more sense to us.
And there is always further to go. What I outlined here is pretty basic and a first step.
Note: This post is a bit one-sided as I wrote it from some reactivity and didn’t rewrite it – as I often do – before posting it. See the comments section for more details…!
I understand the fascination with conspiracy theories. They can give us a feeling that we belong to an exclusive group who knows while others don’t. It can be exciting and give can give us a sense of discovery. They can give us quick and simple answers to some of the problems in the world.
At the same time, it seems a waste of time to be too focused on obscure and often insignificant conspiracy theories. Mainly because what we agree is going on, what’s already out in the open, is as bad and often far worse than most conspiracy theories.
Here are some major things we know are going on:
Multinational corporations control international and national policies to increase their profit at the cost of people, ecosystems, and future generations. They also own most of mainstream media, and buy the votes and policies of politicians through financial contributions. Their interests often dictate the public discourse, bringing attention away from the really serious and overarching issues, and frame the more serious issues in a way that focuses on their more peripheral aspects. (No secret group or organization is needed for this to happen.)
Our economic system is based on assumptions that goes counter to ecological realities. What’s profitable in the short and medium term is often detrimental to the ecosystems we depend on for everything precious to us. And that’s not inevitable. It’s built into our particular economic system. It can be changed. (It’s not about individual greed as much as a system where short term profit is disconnected from enhancing the health and well-being of ecosystems, society, and individuals.)
Most or all our systems – economy, transportation, business, science, education, health and more – are based on outdated worldviews and frameworks. They are based on models and assumptions from one or two centuries ago when the world looked very different from how it is today. Today, with our much larger population and much more powerful technology, these assumptions are far more destructive to nature and people.
A note: Climate change is often a big topic in the media today as it should be. Although climate change is just a symptom of a much deeper and more systemic problem, and that is rarely addressed in mainstream media – at least so far. I suspect it will be.
None of these systems have to look the way they do. They are created and upheld by us and can be changed by us. And they will as more people become aware of the downsides of the current models and that we have practical and attractive alternatives.
Bernie Sanders in an excellent example of someone who sees and speaks about many of these issues, and a different and more sane way of organizing ourselves. He is a realist so he speaks about the first steps even if he likely is aware of the longer perspectives. We will eventually – and quite soon – need deeper changes.
Here are some ways to talk about mind & body, each with some truth to them.
In immediate experience, the body happens within mind. The body is an experience happening within and as awareness. It’s a set of sensory input and associated imaginations (mental images and words) combining to create the experience of this body, and all of that happens within and as awareness. As somebody said, the body is the part of the mind visible to the senses.
Health wise, body and mind are one seamless system. If we decide to imagine them as two, we can say that each influences the other. (And the brain and body is one seamless system as well, obviously, with extensive two-way communication.)
In terms of ecology and cosmology, the body is a seamless part of larger social, ecological, and cosmological systems. It’s a holon (part) within a holarchy (system of parts). Again, any separation and even any distinctions are imagined. (And that imagination is essential for helping us orient, navigate and function in the world.) Our wider social, ecological, and cosmological systems are – in a literal and concrete sense – our larger body. This is not just poetry or the visions of a mystic, it’s literally how it seems to be. The universe is one seamless system, and we are seamlessly embedded in it.
In our culture, we are so used to thinking of separate units that it’s difficult to take this in and really embody and feel it. We are used to thinking of mind and body as distinct and largely separate, and ourselves as a person as distinct and largely separate from the wider whole. There is some truth to it, and yet it’s not the whole picture, and it’s also not the most useful way of looking at it these days. A more integral view, or systems view, or holarchical view, makes more practical sense.
Some of the integral folks like to talk about the shortcomings of “radical relativism”.
But radical relativism, if it is radical enough, is the freedom to use stories in any way that seems appropriate. It is the freedom in seeing the limited value in any story and perspective, and then use whatever one(s) seem most appropriate in any given situation.
If it is a truly radical relativism, we see stories as just tools of practical value, so choose stories with more explanation power, that are more compassionate, more effective in getting things done, more elegant, and so on, and according to what is available to us based on our current insights, experiences and skills.
And the way we hold these stories also depend on the situation. Sometimes, it may seem more appropriate to hold them lightly, freely admitting that they are just tools and that other tools may be more useful in the situation.
Other times, and especially if peoples health and well-being is at stake, and we are up against folks who are in the grips of reactivity and blind beliefs, it may be more appropriate to hold our stories far more strongly. To do what is needed to protect individuals and society, meeting people in our actions and language where they are.
When we are clear, we are anything but door mats. And radical relativism can easily take a strong stand in the world, when needed.
The problem with making “radical relativism” sound suspicious and slightly sinister, as some of the strangely “anti green” folks in the integral world do, is that it may prevent us from going far enough. It may hold people back from going far enough through relativism into the truly radical relativism.
And then we just remain stuck in beliefs. We hold onto a story because we actually think it is true.
An uninformed post on something (see last paragraph) I want to inquire into:
Here’s a great, although brief, post on gender, filtered through the aqal framework, in a way that allows for a wide embrace of and fluidity among many different expressions and experiences of gender.
For me, gender is deeply interesting when there is a wide terrain and fluidity there. And it is difficult for me to be exited about it if the landscape is narrow, the dynamics rigid, and it is made into ideology one way or another. (Exited in terms of the map, and also in terms of how it is experienced and expressed in myself and others.)
This is one of the many ways to use the Big Mind process: Shift into the various expressions and experiences of gender, along different dimensions. Explore how each one contributes to the life of the small self, and to the expressions of Big Mind and Big Heart. See how the small self relates to each of them. Are there some that are disowned? Others that are rigidly identified with? How would it be if each of them are included in a more conscious way? How can there be more of a flow among them, a shifting into one and then another? What does the wider landscape look like?
The Work is also useful here, helping us to investigate our beliefs and identities around gender. Do I think I have to be one way or another? Do I see some modes as safe and other ones as unsafe? What do I think would happen if I brought out modes outside of my usual identities and habits?
For instance, the macho modes that Ken Wilber and some of his followers like to adopt is beautiful if part of a much wider landscape of available expressions and experiences of gender, and happens within a flow among them. And as with anything else, if it becomes an ideology, more rigid, and something to defend, it can quickly look a little weird.
Statement for inquiry: Ken Wilber shouldn’t be stuck in his macho attitudes.
Here is an interesting comment on Deida’s take on the topic:
So for instance David Deidaâ€™s sexology is infuriatingly heteronormative and employs some of the worst gender stereotypes Iâ€™ve ever seen. His latest book, â€œThe Way of the Superior Manâ€, has a blurb from Ken Wilber saying something to the effect of how finally thereâ€™s a book for the non-castrated male. This is the kind of nonsense that is sure to attract the little-girl types in need of a father figure (cue: I gag), but I just donâ€™t see what any of this has to do with the spiritual path, which requires incredible courage.
Another interesting point from the same comment:
As Adrienne Rich, Kate Millett and others have pointed out in their deconstruction of compulsory heterosexuality, the Westâ€™s dichotomy of homosexuality versus heterosexuality boils down to gender politics at the end of the day. Kate Millett brilliantly puts it: â€œHomosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality. But finding this difficult, and preferring not to admit it, it invented a pariah state, a leper colony for the incorrigible whose very existence, when tolerated openly, was admonition to all. We queers keep everyone straight as whores keep matrons virtuous.â€
Through some of the subquestions, The Work helps us explore how our beliefs and perceptions are formed and maintained by culture and community and more.
For instance, asking the question when did I first have that thought? tends to bring up the whole initial context, how it came from family, society and more, and how it continues to be maintained by those around us and our culture. Question no. 4, who would I be without the thought? and the turnarounds help us see that having that belief, that identity, and that way of filtering the world is not inevitable. Other people and cultures may indeed see the world quite differently. Their experiences and interpretations may be very different from what I initially took for granted, and I too glimpse this now.
The Work also helps us work with the he/she/it, you and I dimensions. The initial statement is about Other, a he, she or it. When we read our inquiry to the one it is about, for instance our partner, the you dimension comes in. And the I dimension is there throughout.
Here are some of the ways The Work works with the shadow…
It brings it up and out by encouraging us to find a stressful statement. Whenever there is a stressful thought, aka any belief, there is also a shadow inherent in it.
Often, a part of us see that belief as unacceptable, even if it is there, so we squash it and try to not make it visible to others or even ourselves. In this case, we may partly be aware of our shadow, and uncomfortable with it.
Other times, we may be completely identified with the initial statement and corresponding identity, so don’t even question it. In this case, it is usually a blind shadow, and we see it only out there in the wider world.
It works with the shadow in its many forms, as a shadow of a belief, an identity, and a group identity.
We work with the shadow of a belief through the turnarounds, which help us see the grain of truth in its reversals. The shadow of a belief, a statement taken as absolutely true, is exactly there, in the grain of truth of its reversals and also the limited truth of the initial statement.
Any belief creates a corresponding identity, at the very least an identity as someone who has that belief, filters the world that particular way, and behaves in relation to that identity (whether these behaviors are aligned with the identity or not.) When I explore what comes up through question no. 3, what happens when I believe that thought?, I explore this identity and its consequences. Question no. 4 and the turnarounds helps me explore what happens when this identity is not blindly identified with anymore, and I allow myself to move more freely among the different reversals of that identity. These reversals are the former shadow of the initial identity, and this is a way to begin to make more friends with it, bring it more actively into my daily life, see what it asks of me, and harvest its gifts.
And from the shadows of the belief and its corresponding identity, group shadows form. Again, through questions no. 3, 4 and the turnarounds, we get to see and explore this group identity, its consequences, its shadow/reversals, and what happens when there is a release from blindly identifying with it.
Through taking one or more of the turnarounds into daily life, we get to explore it more actively there as well, with the insights inquiry gave us.
We get find the truth in the reversals/shadow of the initial belief, live from a space holding the limited truth in all of them, and find a fluidity among them in daily life.
We get to find in ourselves the the reversals/shadow of the initial identity, explore how it is to admit to and live from those reversal identities, and finding a fluidity among them in daily life. What is different when I live from an identity that previously was not acceptable? What gifts does it offer? How it is to find more fluidity among them in daily life?
And we get to explore the corresponding group shadows as well. Which groups in my life have these shadows, and how are they expressed? What happens if I deliberately move outside of the group norms and acknowledge the grain of truth in the reversals of the belief, and maybe shift into the reversals identities? Is is accepted or not? Does it help shift the group into a wider embrace? If not, maybe I could leave the group?
The impulse to explore this in a little more detail (not that I haven’t many times before) came when I read some discussion about The Work in the context of the Ken Wilber type integral framework. Sometimes, we can be so intent on finding how things does not align with a particular framework that we miss how it does. (Not that it has to, or even should.)
Apparently, working with and seeing through the myth of the given goes beyond the simple version of it: recognizing appearances as just appearances, filtered in numerous ways, conditioned by infinite causes. It also includes a specific way to analyze why it appears as it does through bringing in the intersubjective, and the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st person perspectives.
I guess we have do it one that one specific way for it to count 🙂
So does The Work do it in that one particular way? Let’s see…
Intersubjective. Well, The Work is intersubjective in one way (I know this one doesn’t count), in that it is often done with a partner, and also shared with others. Also, it is intersubjective in that many of the subquestions (under question no. 3) specifically helps us look at how our beliefs are created in community, and appears real because they are shared by community. Questions no. 4 and the turnarounds helps us see how they are not absolutes, and that different communities indeed see and filter things differently.
3rd, 2nd and 1st person perspectives. As with the 3-2-1 process, the initial statement and subquestions to question no. 3 is an exploration of the 3rd person perspective (he/she/it). The second person perspective (you) comes in mostly when we work directly with another, reading our inquiries on statements on them while they listen, and we then talk about it afterwards. And the first person (I) comes in throughout.
The filter of context. For me, and also others it seems, an analysis of the role of context follows from some of the subquestions for question no. 3, as outlined under the first point. For instance, when we look at the question “when did you first have that thought” it is often clear how it came through culture, family, religion, or some other influence.
This isn’t to say that The Work completely addresses the Myth of the Given, nor that it has to. Also, maybe some additional subquestions, and different configurations of doing it, would make it more aligned? (One question could be “where did the belief come from”, although the answer to that one usually comes through the question “when did you first have that belief”.)
And even if The Work already addresses the Myth of the Given, through many of its subquestions and the turnarounds, why make it explicit? Why not let people discover it for themselves? If it is made explicit, it can too easily just be another myth, another belief, another “should”, another way to blind ourselves.
I also see that the Myth of the Given seemed so obvious to me initially, that we filter the world in innumerable ways, and that these filters are created by infinite causes. But it is apparently not that simple. I still don’t quite get how KW and others use it…
One thing I notice among some in the integral world, including from Wilber himself sometimes, are quick judgments of what others are doing based on surface characteristics.
Sometimes, it seems that folks are looking for the official aqal lingo and if they don’t find it, then it can’t be aqal. Or they may look for something to be explicitly expressed, and if it isn’t, at least not where they are looking, then it is assumed that the author don’t understand it in the first place.
Again, this is something we all do, but to me, this is especially obvious in the integral world.
For instance, at the end of “Integral Spirituality”, Ken Wilber lists a number of popular teachers and authors, and apparently automatically gives them the stamp of being blind to the “myth of the given”.
I may be wrong, but for the ones I am more familiar with, they certainly do not seem to be in the grips of the myth of the given. If anything, they offer a practical path out of it. For instance, by doing The Work, we come to see any story as just a story, nothing more. And the same is the case for Hameed Ali (Almaas, Diamond Approach). Even as he uses certain descriptive terms to point to certain experiences, he is obviously clear on experiences as influenced by culture, biology, states, development and much more, and that there is nothing absolute in any of it.
Another example may be this blog, which I am sure does not appear very aqal to most people. After all, it is almost exclusively upper left quadrant focused, and does hardly ever use aqal terminology. But by looking at the content rather than surface markers, you’d find an acknowledgment of the equal importance and contribution of each quadrant, and of the importance of evolution/development and how the world is filtered differently through a combination of lines centered at different phases of their development.
And that is the case with a great deal of other writing that does not use explicit aqal terminology.
A not very coherent, stream-of-consciousness type post:
Although I greatly appreciate the work of Ken Wilber and find it very helpful, I am also disenchanted with many of the attitudes found in the KW flavored integral world, often modeled by him…
For instance, I found this on an aqally flavored blog…
I don’t really care much for politics as it has developed into being not so much about creating a better future for nations and the world, but about self-serving narcissistic pursuits by people who are generally of a far lower level of consciousness than that which is needed for REAL progress.
Hmm…. and that statement is not self-serving, narcissistic and at a lower level of consciousness, not to say arrogant? It is a great example of how, no matter what else we describe, we always also describe ourselves at that very moment.
Here is someone who has read Ken Wilber, and probably gotten a dose of him through Integral Naked, and then relatively mindlessly absorbs it… including the more questionable parts. In this case, isn’t it narcissism to put yourself above politics, as if you are too good and to evolved for it?
KW himself of course does encourage being active in the political life, but his attitudes certainly promote these type of outcomes.
And these include his, to me, strange fascination with the evil green meme. (I understand the reasoning of wanting to nudge people beyond it, but the way it comes out seems to have more to do with his personal issues than choosing a smart and effective strategy.) How he is using models and theories not very well grounded in research as if they are. His labeling of other’s approaches as in the grips of the “myth of the given” when they really don’t seem to be. His weirdly macho attitudes. The way he likes to exaggerate and over-hype different things. (Including the importance of certain models, like his own, and certain practices, like the Big Mind Process.) And much more.
Any of these are part of a fluid response to the world and situations, but here they seem relatively stuck and a fixed pattern. And since he doesn’t seem to quite own up to it, and there may be a taboo against bringing it up to him and within the integral community, these patterns spread and are adopted by many of his followers and the integral community.
Whatever these things say about him, they certainly say something about me and my own hangups, and I can see that. And I can be wrong about much or all of it about him as well.
Also, although the aqal model is easily understood in its basic form (I used a close version of it for myself before reading about his version of it (my version: inner/outer, in a holarchy and an evolution/development context)), I admittedly don’t understand a lot of it… including what I mentioned above: his way of taking on the green meme, his use of the Myth of the Given, and so on.
Even if there is something in what I see as slightly off, I see that these kind of things happen in all groups, communities and traditions, and that is not a reason to throw a great baby out with the bath water.
Our hangups, wounds, knots, blind spots, all of these are an intrinsic part of any human endeavor. In a sense, they are as important as anything else happening. They nudge us to bring more of ourselves and our interactions into awareness.
Michael Dowd’s new book, Thank God for Evolution, is available for pre-order. Also check out the book’s website which has articles as well as audio and video samples.
He does a great job of providing bridges from the traditionalist/fundamentalist to the rational/scientific perspectives, and between science and spirituality, all within an integrally informed framework.
(Not sure how much the book goes into the integral maps, but his talks often do.)
Seeing how much sense it makes to include the energy & consciousness, and self & other dimensions in our own practice, it is paradoxical how for instance CSS, which has as its mission to be inclusive, confines itself to one one quadrant: the one of consciousness and self-initiated work. Also, in terms of the aqal quadrant of one & many, and inner & outer, it again confines itself mainly to only one quadrant: one and inner. It is inclusive in a very limited way.
And although the teachers may know about and have explored some of the other quadrants, they usually don’t talk about it, which can set the students up for having limited and limiting ideas about what is possible.
This is of course OK as well. The benefit of limiting ones focus to a small area is, as usual, that we get to be intimately familiar with it. The drawback is a potentially narrow world view, and also a dismissing of practices and approaches which help us explore the terrain in different ways, and outside of what other practices may cover. While keeping it simple, it also limits.
This is going to be another simplistic skeleton post (as so many others here), but that is what comes out these days…
William Harryman, eBuddha and others have had a discussion going on integral relationships, and although I am interested in the topic, I must admit I haven’t read many of the posts (maybe I will in the future).
I don’t really know about integral relationships, but I know what comes up for me around more mature relationships, and I can always filter it through a simple aqal framework…
It involves working on myself (upper left, inner/one) and directly on the relationship with my partner (two, inner/outer) including in a social and cultural context (many & inner/outer, aware of impacts of norms, expectations, etc.)
It involves awareness of a range of levels of being, and the impacts and processes going on at each (evolutionary psychology, depth psychology, group processes, social psychology, cultural/social impacts, etc.)
It involves seeing my partner (intimate and otherwise) as a mirror for myself. Whatever I see there is also here in myself (projections, shadow work).
It involves recognizing when beliefs and identities are triggered/threatened (contraction, tension, stress, unease, sense of something off) and knowing how to work with it (question/explore the beliefs/identities)
It involves deepening into the evolving fullness of who I am, as a human being, with a widening embrace of all of what I am, and the shared humanity I find in that way.
Working with beliefs, identities, projections and shadows invites a more open/receptive mind and heart, and a deepening recognition of (and empathy for) the other and myself, especially for the areas where we are still stuck and blind.
It involves holding the space for myself and the other to notice and explore all of this (when we are ready for it).
It also involves recognizing what level each of us operate from in the moment… ego/ethno/world/kosmocentric… which has to do with (a) the type of belief we are caught up in, and (b) the strength of the grasp on the belief (tends to be a lighter touch as the circles widen, allowing for an easier recognition of the truth of the reversals)
According to eBuddhas suggestion, I may be qualified to say something about this as I have been in a committed relationship for about a decade, and have been into (or at least interested in) integral frameworks and practice for longer than that, but I don’t feel all that qualified (not at all, actually).
I can’t even say I know what a successful relationship is. At one point, I thought I did (especially as I was well aware of many of the conventional definitions from psychology, family therapy, etc.), but not anymore. It may sound radical, but the more I explore my relationships (through Process Work, The Work etc.), the more genuinely I see any relationship as ideal, as it is. It is life working itself out, in its immense wisdom. Sometimes it looks beautiful to us, and other times ugly, but neither of those are even close to telling us how “successful” it is…
As useful as frameworks and models are, life is always more than and different from any of them… and sometimes it feels inappropriate to even try to apply neat frameworks and models to life, and especially certain areas such as intimate relationships. It is something that is far too alive, too mysterious, working itself out in ways hidden to me… trying to make it fit into a framework can too easily stifle its life and mysterious unfolding (not really, but it sounds good), which has an inherent intelligence that goes far beyond my own (if there is one thing I have learned about relationships, it is just that).
It is a too technical approach to something far too alive, mysterious and inherently intelligent. I guess it is that way with all of life, but for me it is especially clear in relationships.
As long as there is a sense of a separate self, there is a sense of being better and worse than others. And there is also a stink, which is especially noticeable when we cling to a sense of being better than others.
This stink is quite noticeable in much of the integral world… In those who use integral theory to put others down and elevate themselves. In those who find it necessary to see themselves as second tier, and pronounce it to the world. In those who find no use, and not even a right to existence, in less-than-integral approaches that obviously fills a need for others – such as The Secret and the Law of Attraction.
It all comes from a lack of investigation.
Anything I see in others, is also here.
The more I see that, through my own investigation, in a finely grained way, in daily life, the less there is a sense of being better or worse.
There is just a human life being lived out. And anything I see in others, is also here.
On the surface, in my face to the world, there are certainly differences.
But in the vastness of the depth of who I am as a human, and what I am as awake emptiness, there is none… Just intimacy, connection, recognition, and even that is saying too much.
The Blogisattva awards for 2006 have been announced. The winner of the blog of the year award is Integral Options Café, which is well deserved for its quality, consistency and comprehensiveness (it is one of the few blogs I regularly read.) The rest of the list is also worth taking a look at.
The premier award, Blog of the Year, Svaha!, goes to Bill Harryman’s Integral Options Café [link] the fulsome and intellectually hefty — yet fun, smooth, easy and delightful — carnival of information and insight. Bill has a broad and sophisticated palate of what is worthwhile and interesting and has an ability to sweep his readers in to his world of treasures and responsible living. We learn to stay fit; eat right; take care of body and mind, but we are not being lectured to by a finger-wagging nag. Bill gives us things to do, fun to find and insights that come from his challenging, interesting life and then adds thoughtful essays that are finely crafted, masterfully done, about Buddhism informed by Integral theory.
The new issue of Holons has a selection of integral blogs, and the annual Blogisattva award nominees (including this blog…!) for Buddhist blogs has been announced. Lots of good blogs on both lists, and worthwhile checking out.
At the Ground level, the seeing and seen as Ground, there is an absence of integration, lack of integration, and even the possibility for integration. Everything happens on its own, as Ground. It is emptiness dancing. It is already one, and absent of one, many, and absent of many.
At the level of our human self, one form of integration is the integration of our many qualities, skills, aspects, subpersonalities and so on. The question here is: What is alive in my active repertoire?
This is all about familiarizing ourselves with our human self, allowing all the many qualities to come into awareness, to become more familiar with them, to bring them into our daily repertoire and everyday life. As Ken Wilber puts it (and Freud before him), we allow what arises in our immediate awareness as it to become I, me and mine, we allow what is 3rd and 2nd person into 1st person.
And one of the many ways to do this is the Big Mind process, allowing not only for Big Mind to have a taste of and shift into recognition of itself, but also the many voices at our human level to be brought into awareness and a more conscious integration in the daily life of our human self.
Integration in our view has two aspects.
:: View as self-identity
One relates to our integration as a human being.
What is included in my identity as a human being? How wide, deep, embracing is it? How strong or permeable are the boundaries?
The wider and more porous our identity as a human being, the more inclusive our repertoire can be, and the more of the its are allowed to become I, me and mine.
And does this identity also leave room for and include myself as soul, and as Spirit – absent of any I anywhere, inherently free from any identity?
:: View as general framework and worldview
The other has to do with our general worldview and framework. How integral is my view?
Does it include and allow for the inner and the outer, and the one and the many? The Beautiful (aesthetics), the Good (ethics), True (Science), and Spirit? The many lines and levels of evolution and development? 1st, 2nd and 3rd person relationships with myself, the world and Spirit?
Not much, as it is inherently integral: It encompasses the unfolding of the world of form in all its expressions and in all four quadrants.
Yet, the aqal model can be a very helpful framework in organizing and presenting all this material, using holarchies, the four quadrants, and the stages and lines of development.
And also, it is a reminder to include the Ground, the emptiness that goes with the form, the nature of Big Mind and not just its expressions, unfolding and evolution as form. This emptiness, stainless, absent of any characteristics, that is right here as that which the world of form arises within and as.
The four quadrants and evolution/development is inherent in the Universe Story, so just about anyone telling or using the story will cover these (with an emphasis on parts of it depending on topic and interest). Some, such as Michael Dowd, use the aqal model explicitly in their telling of the Universe Story.
What is often left out is the Ground or Big Mind. It may be implicit in the telling of it, but often not explicitly acknowledged, and there is even less of an invitation for the audience or participants to taste it for themselves, through for instance the Big Mind process.
Brief integral outline
So here is a recipe for making it a little more integral:
Use the aqal model as a framework in the presentation of the material
Big Mind process
Use the Big Mind process to allow the audience or participants a taste of Big Mind, of Ground, of emptiness dancing. The BM process can also be used to explore the world of form, including impermanence, evolution, Earth as a living system, the difference in operating from an identification with a human self and as Big Mind – the possibilities are endless.
There is much about Ken Wilber’s framework, or rather its content the way he presents it, that is sometimes fuzzy for me.
WC Lattice: Stages and states
One is the Wilber-Coombs lattice, with the stages vertical and states horizontal.
It is simple enough, and fits my own experience and what I see in other’s life as well. We all develop along the many lines and levels, and at any point have access to a range of states – including waking, dream and sleep, or nature mysticism, deity mysticism, causal (witness) and nondual. It is simple, common sense, nothing too controversial.
Stages and self-line
It seems that the confusion for me comes in because I have used a similar framework on my own, long before hearing about the WC Lattice, and it is relatively similar although also not the same. This one is the relationship between the stages of human development and the sense of self, or the self-line of development.
So the stages are still along one axis, but the sense of self is on the other.
Our human self develops along its lines and their levels.
And our sense of self develops from identification with the seen (our human self, gross physical, and individual soul, subtle) to the seeing itself (witness, causal), to realizing the absence of I in both seen and seeing. These are not merely states, but a relatively stable center of gravity. There is a stable experience of I as human self, as soul, as witness or absent.
And these two forms of development are relatively, although not completely, independent of each other.
My human self continues to develop, independent on where my sense of I is centered.
My sense of self can be in my physical human self, and this human self can continue to develop in all its lines of cognitive, relational, ethics and so on. And there can be realized selflessness, and my human self will still continue to develop along any and all of these lines. And anything in between, and any other combination, is also possible.
Resolution: state vs. stage along horizontal
So in the WC lattice, they have states along the horizontal axis, and in the model I made for myself, the self-line is along the horizontal axis.
Yet, the content of the two are in a way the same. It is gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness, and nondual in both cases.
In one, it is a temporary state, a glimpse, a peek (!) experience as they say. In the other, it is a more stable center of gravity, it is the stages of the sense of self, the self line.
The two versions of the horizontal lines are the same in content, different in that one is a state and the other a stage, and – in a way, we can say that one leads to the other.
The states leads to stages.
I am plunged repeatedly into the subtle state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into it. I am plunged repeatedly into the witness state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into that. I am plunged repeatedly into nondual states, and the center of gravity shifts into that.
When my sense of I shifts into the subtle state, I experience myself as soul, as energy, as bliss, as fullness. And this is a relatively stable experience. It is where I am most, if not almost all, of the time.
When my sense of I shifts into the causal witness, I find myself as seeing itself, and this is where I find myself most or almost all of the time.
When my sense of I falls away completely, the center of gravity is in the nondual, and that is where it is most or all of the time.
The WC lattice is in a way a cleaner model. It has stages along one axis and states along the other, and that is it.
The model I made up for myself a long time ago is not quite as clean. It has stages along one axis, and stages within one particular line along the other.
Yet, this horizontal line has the same referents: gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness and nondual. In one, as states, and in the other as where my sense of I is centered.
The aqal model is often presented as only of interest to second tier folks, or maybe even only understandable by second tier folks.
That does not seem to fit my experience. To me, the aqal model is mainly just a practical tool, a way to make sure the four quadrants and the various lines and levels of development is taken into consideration.
If the person is strongly attached to an ideology which excludes either of the quadrants or any acknowledgment of human development, they may reject it. But this seems unusual.
Otherwise, if the four quadrants and development is not a foreign idea or experience, there is an opening there. It can fit into their existing framework.
And if there is also some curiosity about the world, or just an interest in practical tools, then there is more than an opening: there may be an active and alive interest in it.
So is an integral framework such as the aqal model only of interest to the supposedly very few at the second tier? Not likely. It seems that anybody with a somewhat open mind, a curiosity about the world, or an interest in maps and tools that work, would at least be receptive and maybe even actively interested in learning about and applying it.
I suspect that the strong passion for it may come more typically at second tier, but that does not mean that there is not a much wider audience for it than this.
What do other people think? Based on your experience, not extracted from any models.
This is written from the perspective of the aqal model as quadrants and lines/levels, and otherwise relatively content-free.
For those at orange who feel that “spiritual” levels are too far fetched and not supported by personal experience or science, they can of course leave that out. For those at green who do not like the language of levels, they can use words such as widening circles or turns around the spiral to refer to the same. For those at amber (previously blue) who see the bible as an authority, they can keep that – and just be sure to include all four quadrants and the lines and levels, either interpreting the spiritual levels/lines within their Christian context or choosing to leave them out.
The opportunities are endless. Does it mean that the aqal model is watered down? Not necessarily. It just means that the basic framework of quadrants and levels is made available to more people, wherever they are at otherwise.
Those who see themselves at second tier can still use it that way of course, and refine it according to where they are at.
Nothing is lost, much is gained.
And this seems to be a more genuinely second tier approach. To me, any attempt to preserve the “purity” of the model by excluding folks from it – through using a particular language or insisting on the one right content, smacks of absolutism. While a more pragmatic approach, making the basic model available to as many as possible, seems more second tier. And, as mentioned, those at second tier can still refine the model to their liking.
It may be messy, yes. And people may use it in ways you don’t like. But that’s life. And it will happen anyway.
The aqal framework is in many ways as basic a tool as language, and holding it back or trying to preserve its purity is as futile as trying to preserve the purity of language. It evolves, lives its own life, is used by people for their own purposes different from yours, is mangled and goes in directions you don’t like. That’s how it is.
And this is of course from the green gifts: egalitarian, wanting to share, make something available to as many as possible. With the understanding that people will make it their own, reflecting exactly where they are at in terms of the quadrants and levels.
A couple of things that came up in a conversation today:
Levels as widening circles and turns around the spiral
The language of levels and tiers, as we know, puts off some people. Mainly those at green level. It just sounds too hierarchical and elitist for those at green.
Another way to word it is to talk about widening and more inclusive circles.
As we move along the developmental spirals, that is what happens: our view becomes more inclusive and comprehensive, the circles embrace more.
Using this language, the first turn around the spiral is the infrared and level one, the sixth turnis green and the sixth level, and so on.
This is one way to rephrase it when talking with greens without sacrificing accuracy, and more importantly, without turning them off simply due to language. (And this, turning greens off simply due to choice of language, is what KW sometimes choose to do – maybe to get their attention, or for some other reason. In any case, it is difficult for me to understand why, and to see that it has any beneficial outcomes.)
Second and first tiers: practical or right?
And here is one way to talk about the first and second tiers, very general and rough:
At first tier, the first bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being right. My views are right, and you need to change. Which we all know is, yes, hopeless!
At second tier, the second bundle of turns around the spiral, it is about being practical.
There is an appreciation for the other turns of the spiral, an ability to access and make use of the gifts of the first tier turns, and an ability and willingness to meet people where they are at.
In short, it is a more practical approach.
Second tier as more pragmatic
And that is how the second tier tends to come up for me, the second set of turns: It is just about being more pragmatic, informed by a more integral view such as that of quadrants and levels of development.
Many places have their integral pods and networks, and we have had some too – one study group that went for a while, and one I organized last year on integral practice.
Now, it seems that the time is ripe for something else to get going.
Some ideas for local activities
A brief, general menu of possibilities…
Forming a core catalyst and support group for whatever network may emerge.
Presentations, workshops, articles in local publications, website, email group, group blog, consulting with organizations or individuals who want to operate from a more integrally informed view.
Developing an AQAL map of our local community: Where do existing approaches fit into the aqal map? How can they reorganize to reflect a more conscious aqal approach?
What does it take to reflect a more integrally informed view?
In general, and as KW points out, each of the organizations and individuals will have to let go of their claim to absolute truth.
Some of the possible questions that come up:
What are some of the ways their organization, their insights, their existing maps and views, can be reorganized to reflect a more integrally informed framework? What would need to change? What can stay the same? Where in the aqal map do they land? Which areas are left out? How can they work with others to create a more comprehensive approach? What are their unique contributions?
Examples of realigned organizations
And then some (very rough and preliminary) examples of how this may look. This is of course going to be terribly generalized. (And will bring up some projections and food for inquiry later on…!)
These organizations are all led by friends or acquaintances of mine who I have the greatest respect and appreciation for. But that does not mean that their frameworks are somehow final, complete, without room for improvement, and not available to an integral overhaul 🙂
Prototista is a quite remarkable community school for complexity theories, run by one person. It is based on solid and leading-edge science, although tends to leave out the left hand quadrant entirely, as well as the developmental dimension.
They do have somewhat of a practical application focus, so including the left hand of the quadrant, and an understanding of human development, would – most likely – make their approach more effective. Of course, many students there do that on their own, fitting the valuable contributions from Prototista into a more comprehensive framework.
:: Eugene Permaculture Guild
Well, Eugene Permaculture Guild is the premiere local example of the green value meme, although many of the individuals there are probably at wider and more inclusive turns of the spiral.
In general, they do cover all the quadrants pretty well. What they lack is an understanding of human development, and a willingness to meet and work with people where they are at.
As is typical for any first tier level, they want everybody else to be where they themselves are, they want others to “get it”. (Hopeless! as Byron Katie would say.)
And as is typical for the green level in particular, they appreciate some forms of diversity – such as ethnic, age and so on, but do not appreciate the diversity of the spiral of development. They do not appreciate orange much, and even less amber, and see second tier folks as elitist or naive kooks.
To reflect a more integral approach, they could include this understanding of the lines and levels of human development, and how it plays out in community and approaches to sustainability.
Most importantly, it would help them meet people where they are at, using their language, addressing their values and goals, not needing or wanting them to change their basic values and worldview, just aligning and partnering around the shared interests of creating a more livable and life-supporting community.
It would help them be more effective in what they are doing. It would very much be a practical approach. It would help them avoid the usual burn-out from the old us versus them mentality and wanting them to be like us. And it would be more fun.
Permatopia is a comprehensive map to a more sustainable society, and another green level approach.
It is almost entirely right hand quadrant, which is OK as long as it is combined with more left hand understandings.
Maybe more seriously, it leaves out an understanding of human development. And this means that it is almost entirely uninteresting to anyone but other greens.
Amber and orange says, nice but why should we care? Or, get away from me with that crazy hippie talk!
Second tier says, you are onto something very important, but you are leaving too much out to get me on board. The approach is not comprehensive and inclusive enough, and the way you do it alienates too many people. I’ll put in my energy somewhere else. :: PROUT
There is a PROUT educational center here. It is a beautiful theory, obviously well-meaning, and it is integral in that it does cover all the quadrants and even an understanding of human development.
Its main weakness is that it seems highly prescriptive, from the overall framework and down into a good deal of detail. There is a particular way of doing it. It is content full where the aqal framework is content-free, allowing for anything to be plugged into it. So it tends to appear somewhat unrealistic, idealistic, utopian, rigid, a pipe dream.
In it’s utopian idealism it appeals to some Green meme folks, but that is about it. It is difficult to see folks from amber and orange, at least in this culture, embrace it, and second tier folks may tend to see it as too idealistic and inflexible. One solution is of course to loosen up the content part, and allow other approaches which still fit within the general intention of PROUT.
:: Center for Sacred Sciences
CSS is under guidance of Joel who clearly lives from a Ground awakening and realized selflessness, and speaks beautifully about this, weaving together quotes and views from a wide range of spiritual traditions. There are also several others who have realized selflessness under his guidance, and who now function as occasional assistant teachers.
As inclusive their approach is in terms of drawing from a range of traditions, they also leave much out compared to an aqal perspective. They mostly focus on the upper left quadrant, although sometimes bring in quantum physics and the like from the right hand quadrants. And they do not address zone #2 views on the upper left quadrants. For instance, they altogether leave out the understandings of human development from western psychology.
Still, their main weakness may be in another area: Being somewhat stuck in the absolute. The focus is almost exclusively on realized selflessness, largely ignoring the human self and its health, maturity, and continued development before andafter realized selflessness.
As far as I understand, KW talks about how an awakening, here realized selflessness, can cement the human self wherever it may be. And this is exactly my main concern with CSS. Their exclusive focus on realized selflessness leaves out attention to the health and development of the human self, and this can to some extent fix the human self where it is at.
Within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a continued and deepening healing, maturing and development of the human self. Many of the II associates understand and emphasise this, including Saniel Bonder and Genpo Roshi. Joel does not.
Of course, from the view of the absolute, he is right. Everything is Spirit. Everything is emptiness dancing, including what from a relative view is seen as an unhealthy or healthy, immature or mature human self – less or further along in its many lines of development.
Yet, it is also onesided. Existence has two faces: emptiness and form, ground and phenomena, Self and self. Or we can say the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, and the content of this human self and the rest of the world of form.
And this content, this world of form, continues to unfold in always new ways. As this universe and planet, it continues to evolve. As this human self, it continues to develop.
If we emphasize only one, we leave out at least half of the story. In a way, we make God into far less than it is. We miss out on the invitation of consciously participating in the evolution of the world of form, within and as Ground.
:: Co-Intelligence Institute
CII does a wonderful job in gathering information about and promoting various approaches to collective intelligence, something which is sorely needed in our society, and maybe especially in our political system. I am not sure exactly where on the Spiral Dynamics spiral they are located, but most likely somewhere between green and second tier, with a nostalgia for green.
In terms of the quadrants, they seem to do a pretty good job covering all of them. The widening circles of development seem to be mostly left out or in the background, probably because it clashes with the green aversion to anything that tastes of hierarchy and attachment to the egalitarian.
Maybe more seriously, green idealism here seem to abandon the effective pragmatism of orange and is not yet at the more inclusive and deep pragmatism of second tier.
Orange knows how to get things done, yet ignores much in the process – and that is picked up by Green. Second tier also knows how to get things done, and now with a pragmatism that draw on tools and insights from any first tier levels, including the willingness and ability to meet people where they are at. At second tier, the idealism of green no longer gets in the way of getting things done.
The problems outlined in the previous post can more simply be seen as a confusion of quadrants.
Left quadrants and past lives: what does it mean?
In a therapeutic setting, it is most useful to ask how do stories of past lives reflect what is alive right now?What is the meaning of these stories? This is the left quadrants, and in this case mainly the upper left.
Right hand quadrants and past lives: is it true?
From the right hand quadrants, we ask is it true? Is there rebirth? Is this story a story of a past life? This is the appropriate question for research.
Confusing the two
So it seems that the client in the story from Norway confused the two. She wanted to apply a right hand quadrant question in a left hand quadrant situation. It may even be that her therapist confused the two. If he was clear on this himself, he would probably made sure the client was able to differentiate as well, even before going into this.
It is understandable that the questions from the quadrants are confused at times, but it comes from – and leads to even more – confusion.
In slowly reading Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber, I see that 99% of what he writes about goes straight in. It rings true, which just means that it fits nicely into my experiences and conscious worldview. It fits with how this personality is organized right now.
The one percent
And then there is that one percent where the question comes up: Is this true? It isn’t, of course, in any absolute sense. But is is true in a relative way, as a useful model that fits available information? That is where the mind goes, as it does when beliefs does not fit what the world comes up with. We are drawn to it, trying to make some sense of it. Trying to find a resolution. At least if it is important enough.
One of these is the question of seeing zone #2 stages/structures in meditation or contemplation.
Zone #1 and #2: immediate awareness and stages of development
Zone #1 is whatever is alive in immediate awareness. It is what we explore through techniques such as mediation, self-inquiry, contemplation and so on. Zone #2 is the structures and stages of development, along any line of development, and these are commonly explored through studies of a number of people over time, first by finding the stages/phases of development within a certain line, then the sequence among them.
KW says that nobody has ever seen any stages in mediation or contemplation. It is true, in that these are theoretical constructs. (Which means that they can appear as a thought in mediation or contemplation, but that is a little different!)
At the same time, it may not be the whole picture.
The ways zone #2 shows up in meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation
For instance, through mediation or forms of self-inquiry, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion show up quite clearly. They are hard to avoid, as they permeate my whole human self – from view to emotions to interests to behaviors, and they are highlighted by whatever ethical guidelines my tradition has set up. These guidelines tend to be world-centric, so anything in me at ego- or ethno-centric levels will be highlighted and stick out as a sore thumb.
I find that for myself, these questions naturally come up in mediation and self-inquiry: Do I act in ways that only take myself, my human self, into consideration? Only my group? The whole of humanity, the earth, future generations?
These are questions that – I will guess – a majority of spiritual practitioners and teachers will be very much interested in. How do I show up now, in terms of my circle of care, concern and compassion? How wide are the circles, in my view, my emotions, my behavior?
Also, I may find that there are shifts over time. I may have acted mostly from the egocentric phase earlier, and am now on ethnocentric, with some worldcentric. And this will show up. I will notice the change.
The way it looks for me is that the zone #1 techniques may very well yield zone #2 insights and realizations. Although in doing so, these zone #1 techniques use a zone #2 methodology, so in a way – they become zone #2 techniques.
So it means that it is true, mostly, that zone #1 investigations do not see zone #2 levels. Yet what we see as zone #1 techniques can also be used as zone #2 techniques. They can, in a rough way, discover some of the zone #2 characteristics – some of the broad stages and how there is a shift from one to another over time.
Teachers discovering zone #2 in working with students
The same is most likely true for spiritual teachers. If they didn’t notice some of these stages of development in themselves, they will see them in their students.
They are bound to notice the changes among students, and in students over time. In the stream of students passing before them, year after year.
Some may move through these faster, other more slowly, and other again maybe not at all. But move through them they do, and it will show up in their worldview, their interests, how they experience their world, who and what they have compassion for, and how they live their lives.
A rough map with zone #1 techniques
So it seems that a rough map of stages of development is very much possible in the context of meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation.
At the very least, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion will be relatively obvious, going from the small circle of myself, to the wider circle of my group, to the even wider circle of all humanity, all life, future generations, the whole of existence, and reflected in any aspect of my life and experience.
Other lines of development may also be relatively obvious, at least in a general way: for instance the spiritual live of development, and maybe also the emotional and interpersonal, depending on what the specific tradition emphasizes. And different spiritual traditions do of course include different stages of development, at least in one or a few lines.
Detailed explorations with zone #2 methodologies
KWs point may be that zone #2 methodologies, as developed in modern psychology, is needed for a more detailed exploration and mapping of zone #2, and that is of course right.
But it does not mean that zone #1 and its techniques is blind to it, oblivious to the relatively obvious changes and maturing in at least some lines of development.
Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber’s latest book, landed in my mailbox on Friday, and I have enjoyed reading the first couple of chapters and browsing later chapters as well. As always from KW, it is very well written, simple, clear, to the point, with just enough to chew on to keep my interest for a while.
I am moderately familiar with the AQAL model and the modern/postmodern/premodern dynamics he writes about, from his earlier books.
Many contemporary approaches: missing exterior views on interior territories
It seems that this time, what will give me something to chew on is how the postmodern insights are left out of many contemporary approaches to spirituality, and especially zones #2 and #4, exterior views on interior territories, such as models of individual psychological/spiritual development, and an understanding of the many filters of experience, interpretation and expression.
Development and cultural filters
On the one hand, both seem to be a given in today’s world.
We know that humans develop, that we do so in many areas (lines), that this development goes through predictable stages, and that there are that there are many overlapping/complementary models of this development.
And we know that our experiences (in any quadrant) and the way we interpret, talk about and model our experiences are filtered through – among other things – our biology as human beings, our level of individual development, and our culture, traditions and worldviews.
At the same time, these two are indeed left out of many of the approaches to spirituality today, amazingly enough. And that is exactly what KW points out, if I understand it correctly.
Need to acknowledge to be taken seriously
For any contemporary approach to spirituality to be taken seriously by those familiar with post-modern insights, and just about anyone with a college degree or less are, they need to take these two into account.
At the very least, they need to show that they know about, acknowledge and are compatible with insights from studies of human development and filtering of experiences, interpretations and expressions of these. And even better: explicitly show how these fit into the (rest) of their approach.
Ten books and the myth of the given
I enjoyed reading his integral review of ten different books and movies in appendix iii, and find that what he says about these are similar to my initial impressions of them, although with more detail and precision.
For most (all?) of these, he points out that they reflects a lack of understanding of the myth of the given, or, as I read it, zones #2 and #4 are left out.
I am not sure if I understand the myth of the given completely, although it seems to refer to an impression that whatever arises in our experience, how it is interpreted, and how we finally express it, somehow reflects some absolute and universal truth, not filtered through innumerable filters including our culture and, in this context, our spiritual tradition.
Don’t understand, or just leave out?
In today’s world, that seems an impossibly naive view, and it is difficult for me to imagine that the writers of these books are not aware of it. Their main crime may be one of omission, rather than ignorance.
And as KW points out, only a small adjustment is needed for these approaches to align themselves consciously with the basic contemporary insights from zones #2 and #4. It doesn’t take much.
Some are more limited in focus
It also strikes me that some of the books and approaches he mentions have a more narrow focus, they do not attempt to be comprehensive in the AQAL way.
This may be the case for Loving What Is by Byron Katie, which outlines what BK calls The Work, one of my favorite ways to work with projections and the shadow.
The Work aims at unraveling beliefs, working with projections, integrating the shadow, revealing the Ground under and within all of the possible relative truths.
It is not a worldview. It is not a framework for anything besides a specific practice of examining beliefs. It is not comprehensive in an AQAL way, and does not aspire to be so either.
To the contrary, it aims at unravelling attachments to any particular relative truth, and allow us to see that any belief, any idea, any model, any framework, is only a relative truth. Useful, practical, invaluable for functioning in the world of phenomena, yet still only relative truths.
So to say that it accepts the myth of the given seems a little weird to me right now, although that may change as I digest it some more. The Work really does not accept anything as given. It doesn’t accept any experience, interpretation, or wording as more than a relative truth. They are stories, and each of the turnarounds of these stories also have some relative truth to them.
It is obviously correct to say that The Work leaves out zones #2 and #4, yet it also seems to miss the point to some extent. The Work is a very specific approach to working with projections and beliefs. It is targeted specifically at zone #1. That’s it.
What seems true is that The Work – along with many other approaches – may be even more useful if it is integrally informed, if it explicitly acknowledges the AQAL model and where it fits in. It will make it more easily accepted by those already aware of either the AQAL model, or the current insights into zones #2 and #4. It will remain the same tool, yet reach a wider audience.
The myth of the given, relative truths and postmodern insights
I am also not sure if the myth of the given is really believed in, in the way and to the extent he presents it as. In most – or at least the seasoned and mature, spiritual traditions, it is a given that any experience, interpretation, and expression is in the realm of the relative, it is relative truth.
Any experience, any interpretation of this experience, and any expression of this interpretation is by necessity only a relative truth. There is nothing absolute or final in it. It can be helpful, it can be an invaluable pointer, but still only a relative truth.
There may not be an explicit acknowledgement or awareness of the specific filters, such as culture and the levels of human development. The postmodern contributions are partly in describing more in detail the specific filters and their effects on experience, interpretation and expression.
But there is at least an explicit acknowledgment that whatever is perceived or spoken is not any final, or absolute, or absolutely universal, truth.
My own naive assumptions
As I write this, I see that I need to work more with KW’s writings.
Also, I see that assuming that most folks today are aware of (a) the levels and lines of human development, and (b) our many filters of experience, interpretation and expression, is a little naive.
I grew up in Norway, where most people indeed seem to understand this, at least the people I know. I went to the university, where these are seen as a given. And even now, I am almost exclusively exposed to and know people for whom these are a given.
Yet, I know that most people in the world have not gone to a university. Most people are not very much interested in these things (they have more urgent issues to take care of). Many people are at developmental levels where such a fluidity is still in the future.
And there may even be people writing and teaching about these things who are not much aware of it. That is a little harder for me to swallow, although I certainly have seen some examples of it.
Please post comments
If anyone happens to stray into this blog and is more familiar with KW’s work than I am, or have any insights on any of this, please comment here. I hope to gain some more clarity on it after a while.
Beginning August 12, Ken Wilber, author of 24 books, including Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, A Brief History of Everything and Grace and Grit, will be discussing Integral Spirituality, his upcoming book, by live conference call with members of Integral Spiritual Center. Ken will do one call for each of the ten chapters of the book—plus the appendix!
Sounds good to me. It is a great way to dig into the material a little furthen than I normally do – breezing through the text just to get the gist of it, if that.
In reading The Void by A. H. Almaas, my curiosity about the relationship of soul and spirit comes up again.
Soul, as that part of us that continues between human incarnations, the F7 and F8 levels in Wilber’s framework. Bringing this level into awareness gives a sense of richness, fullness, meaning, direction, joy, bliss and so on – all causeless, or more precisely not dependent on conditions apart from bringing the soul level into awareness.
It is individual, seems to evolve, yet also has the same essence across individuals. It has many names, such as essence and being.
Awakening to or glimpsing the soul level opens for nature and/or deity mysticism experiences. It allows for experiences of intimacy with all there is, of everything as God, of oneness and unity, of no separation. Yet, there is still an I and Other here, even within the unity. There is an I placed on the soul level.
And Spirit, as the Ground of it all, Big Mind, the nondual level in Wilber’s framework. This is the completely detached view, completely impersonal, allowing it all to be as it is. It is a shift in context, from a sense of I to a clear absence of I anywhere.
Soul, then Spirit, and the other way around
As Almaas mentions, some traditions – such as Buddhism, focus on nondual awakening and then bringing in the soul level. And other traditions – such as Sufis, focus on bringing in the soul level, and then nondual awakening.
Either is of course fine. And as this differentiation appears to us, it is just about inevitable that different traditions will approach the two in a different sequence and with different emphasis.
This is clear in for instance Breema, which clearly emphasize the level of soul, essence, Being, and briefly and indirectly acknowledge the nondual. It certainly makes it more accessible for more people, and the benefits are immediate and clear.
Soul awakening vs. nondual awakening
Yet, any awakening to soul level is bound to be temporary, unless eventually grounded in clear nondual awakening.
A soul awakening not (yet) grounded in a nondual awakening seems similar to the god realm as described in Buddhism – wonderful, possibly long lasting, yet eventually leading to a fall. Some of us learn that the hard way…!
If our sense of identification, our belief in the thought “I”, is placed on the soul, it seems wonderful for a while. Until there is a fall. Until that too goes away. And then it can lead to a suffering that easily matches any other form of suffering. We have lost that which was most beautiful to us, most meaningful, most blissful.
Only a clear nondual awakening is “stable” because it does not rely on any conditions within the world of phenomena. And the soul level seems very much within the world of phenomena, just as everything else. Bliss comes and goes. Causeless joy comes and goes. A sense of connection, fullness, meaning, direction and guidance comes and goes.
A Ground or nondual awakening allows any content to come and go. Bliss and boredom. Joy and sadness. Meaning and absence of meaning. Fullness and void. Guidance and no guidance. Everything is clearly revealed as absent of any I. There is an absence of any final or absolute identity.
Soul and Spirit
So bringing the soul level into awareness is more accessible and easily enjoyable than working on the nondual awakening. Yet, it is also incomplete, temporary, inviting to a fall – if a nondual awakening is not also present.
Working on a nondual awakening is certainly more difficult, maybe less appealing, yet also the only lasting awakening. And the soul awakening and development can – and will? – certainly continue within a nondual awakening.
With our abundance of traditions, approaches, techniques etc. for exploring ourselves (as individuals and Big Mind), there is a natural integration that takes place as well. Maybe not in terms of changing each approach, but at least in terms of the cross-training they talk about in integral life (transformative) practice. We engage in several different practices, since they each have their area of focus and leave something else out. And this takes place both in terms of integral practice, and also over time – something is helpful at one period of our life, and other approaches at other times.
And this exploration takes place on both individual and collective levels.
For instance, I got into Ken Wilber’s framework in my teens, a few years before living at Kanzeon Zen Center, and then learning the Big Mind process developed some year later. Since then, I discovered Waking Down in Mutuality and (apparently? possibly?) went through the second birth some weeks later.
A little later, Genpo Roshi got involved with the Integral Institute and Ken Wilber, and Big Mind met the integral approach. Today, I found an email in my inbox from Genpo Roshi recommending Saniel Bonder’s latest audio publication, and indirectly the Waking Down approach.
So what I had explored on an individual level later became connected on an outer and more collective level.
I can think of three ways this type of cross-fertilization take place.
One is in our own integral practice. I do some sitting practice, some Big Mind, some shadow work, some inquiry, some Breema, and so on, and although each approach retain their integrity they cross fertilize in my being. Each one remains as they are, yet cross fertilize through our integral practice.
Another is how each of these approaches may organically change through this cross fertilization. A Big Mind instructor may also have experience with Process Work, find something valuable in process work to integrate in the Big Mind process, and this may gradually transform how the Big Mind process is done. Or a Process Work trainer may learn the Big Mind process, pick up useful aspects of that approach, and integrate that in how she or he does and teaches Process Work.
And yet another form of cross-fertilization may be the most risky and least organic. This is to have an idea of creating a hybrid out of two or more distinct practices. In doing this, the unique contributions of each may get watered down or lost.